(AP) Denny Hamlin wishes he didn't need medical clearance to race.
The 32-year-old NASCAR star sustained a compression fracture of a vertebra in his lower back in a last-lap accident at California on March 24. Doctors said he'd miss at least five races, but Hamlin was hoping to be cleared to return this weekend at Richmond, his home track where he has won twice.
Hamlin says he knows the safeguards are in place to protect him from himself, but given the chance, he'd have been behind the wheel a week after the injury.
But doctors have the final say, and Hamlin says if he's not driving full-time when the series gets to Darlington in two weeks, it might be time to consider having surgery and writing off the season.